Default Settings in Mobile File-Sharing App Jeopardized Consumers Personal Files
Frostwire LLC, a peer-to-peer file-sharing application developer, has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that its software likely would cause consumers to unwittingly expose sensitive personal files stored on their mobile devices, and that it misled consumers about which downloaded files from their desktop and laptop computers would be shared with a file-sharing network. The settlement bars Frostwire from using default settings that share consumers’ files, requires it to provide free upgrades to correct the unintended sharing, and bars misrepresentations about what files its applications will share.
Frostwire offers two free P2P file-sharing applications, “FrostWire Desktop” for desktop and laptop computers, and “FrostWire for Android” for Android mobile devices. The applications allow users to share files, including photos, videos, documents, and music, with other users of the Gnutella P2P file-sharing network. Once installed, the Frostwire applications allow potentially millions of people throughout the world to copy files from a user’s computer with little or no notice to that user at the time the files are shared.
The FTC complaint alleged that FrostWire for Android was likely to cause consumers to unwittingly disclose personal files, like pictures and videos, stored on their smartphones and tablet computers. Frostwire had configured the application’s default settings so that, immediately upon installation and set-up, it would publicly share users’ photos, videos, documents, and other files stored on those devices. The agency also charged that consumers who installed some versions of the popular FrostWire Desktop application were misled into believing that files they downloaded from the Gnutella P2P file-sharing network would not be shared with other users of the network. The FTC alleged Frostwire’s unfair and deceptive practices violated the Federal Trade Commission Act.
The proposed settlement order bars Frostwire and its principal, Angel Leon, from using default settings likely to cause inadvertent public sharing of files by consumers and requires clear and prominent disclosures about file sharing and how to disable it. It also bars them from making material misrepresentations about the file-sharing behavior of their applications and prohibits them from distributing copies of the unlawful versions of the applications, and requires them to provide free upgrades that stop sharing files that the legacy applications had shared by default.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint and approving the proposed consent order was 5-0. The FTC filed the complaint and the proposed consent order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The proposed consent order is subject to court approval.
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law. The consent order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendants that the law has been violated. Consent orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
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